My husband is a contractor and will be 47 years old this year, he installs doors and windows. He works alone and some of the doors he lifts can weigh as much as 125lbs. He has done this as long as I have known him, about 12 years and would like to continue working as long as he can because his business is doing very well. However, in the past year, he has begun complaining about back pain and occasional muscle pain which has caused him to miss work. He says that he uses “proper lifting technique”, but are there exercises that can be done to increase his stamina and prevent this “end of the week muscle fatigue”?

I assume that your husband is somewhat conditioned to the load that has been placed on him over the past 12 years, and that the weight of the doors is not any heavier today than they were 12 years ago. So, I would imagine that the repetitive nature of his work is placing stress on his low back. Proper body mechanics are extremely important for someone like your husband, and although he may know that he should use his legs and contract his abdominals while lifting, it may not always be possible. It is likely that the most stressful aspect of his job is loading and unloading these doors out of the back of trucks—none of which are designed with the worker in mind. Finding a way to safely maneuver these doors out of the trucks and on to carts or beds is what needs attention, not simply “lifting” the door from the ground. If he doesn’t already use one, he should consider wearing a lifting belt when moving these doors from one location to another. While I don’t recommend using a weight lifting belt when performing strengthening exercises for the general population, it is recommended in work settings while lifting unusually cumbersome and heavy loads. I would also recommend that he begin a structured strength training program that would incorporate functional exercise. This means that he should be using his own body weight as well as free weights as opposed to selectorized strength training machines. By doing a series of functional exercises, he is incorporating balance, coordination and core strength with every move.

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